Franklin to return in 2012

As reported earlier today by ESPNLA’s Blair Angulo, UCLA junior running back Johnathan Franklin will return for his senior season. I caught up with him briefly, and his return boils down to one thing: He wants to win. Franklin spoke to Jim Mora yesterday about the specific plan the new UCLA head coach has to turn things around, and Mora made it quite clear that his goals are not to take baby steps.

In 2011, Franklin narrowly missed out on becoming UCLA’s first back-to-back 1,000-yard rusher since DeShaun Foster, finishing with a team-high 976 yards with five touchdowns. After the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, Franklin said he would make his decision this week and said that he never filed NFL Draft evaluation paperwork. Now the Bruins wait on the word of junior defensive lineman Datone Jones, who receives his draft evaluation this week and has until Jan. 15 to declare for the draft.

Here’s our brief chat:

JG: How close were you to actually declaring for the NFL Draft?
Johnathan Franklin: “It was pretty much a 50-50 decision. I was ready to go. I met with coach Mora yesterday, talked to a couple teammates, and I ended up changing my mind. I sat down with my mom, talked to my dad, and they convinced me to stay.”

JG: I know so much of this decision to even test the waters was because of your frustration with losing; what did coach Mora say regarding his desire to not just turn things around, but do it quickly?
Johnathan Franklin: “Coach Mora wants to win. He’s going to do whatever he can to win a championship. He’s not worried about a Rose Bowl. He wants a championship. He wants to turn this program around. He’s going to bring in the right players, create the right philosphy, install the right discipline.”

JG: If you had to boil UCLA’s issues down to one thing…
Johnathan Franklin: “The problem is a lack of leadership. Even speaking from my perspective. I need to step up as a leader. The seniors need to step up as leaders. This program has lacked a great leader. Regardless if coach Mora is here or not, we need great leaders.”

JG: You look at what a new coach can do in one season – look at Michigan, and what Brady Hoke has done there so quickly – so what’s the goal for you now? I know you’re not looking to go from 6-8 to 7-5…
Johnathan Franklin: “Nope; 12-0. It’s hard work, commitment. Leadership. We need leadership. And that doesn’t come from one guy. Leadership is plural. We need every guy buying in to being great. The whole team wanting to win. We have to want these things and believe in these things.”

JG: UCLA’s incoming offensive coordinator, Noel Mazzone, is known for using his running back out of the backfield; are you looking to boost your stock by being a more complete back? Was that a major reason for your return?
Johnathan Franklin: That would defintley be great. Before I get to the NFL, I want to win for UCLA. Although I want to be an early round pick. I want to win. I want to be 10-2, 12-0. I want to do whatever I can to help this team win now.”

JG: You mentioned speaking to some players about your return, whom did you talk to and why?
Johnathan Franklin: “I talked to Kevin Prince, Brett Hundley, Jerry Rice, Shaq Evans, Patrick Larimore and Aaron Hester. Guys who have played a pivotal role in the past, in terms of playing time, guys i know I can trust on the field and off the field to do the right thing.”

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  • Bruintx

    Not to rain on JF’s parade (because he has been a great Bruin), but I thought forgoing next year for a shot in the pros was crazy. Maybe I am wrong, but I dont think he would have gone very high in the draft.

    I think another season will benefit him greatly. Glad he got some good advice and even happier he actually listened to that advice. So many college football players own rose colored glasses!

    Nowhere to go but up…

  • BE REAL

    Well, reading between the lines, I think Franklin got a little dose of NFL reality, instead of returning to great ol’ ucla.

    That said, between a senior Prince and a seasoned Franklin, the offense will be the best in years.

  • Taste the reality

    Johnathan Franklin: “…Before I get to the NFL…”

    The actual reality? “…Before I get the NFL channel…”

    Franklin is a mid-talent college running back, he will not be playing football on Sunday, other than at the local park.

    Make sure you l;eave UCLA with a degree, son!

  • Class of 07

    I agree with Taste the Reality–unless he has an astronomical improvement in his senior year, he probably won’t cut it for the NFL. He seems to wilt on the big stage while playing first-class teams…pretty much a non-factor.

    @BE REAL–unless Prince improves DRASTICALLY…I really hope that Hundley will rise up and snatch the starting job.

    Oh yea, Mora also needs to unleash Malcolm Jones’ full potential this coming season. I hope he beats out the competition and wins the starting job. If he’s underused again he’ll transfer…if you guys remember his tweet after the bowl game, he’s really frustrated with the culture and has not been happy with his time in Westwood.

  • Neby

    Sorry but prince will not be starting next year. Time for Hundley’s reign.

  • Bruintx

    I am really hoping coach Mora plays those who deserve to play! CRN sent talent to the back seat over experience. Kids in Little League know which players deserve to start and which dont. You dont think the Bruin players knew who derserved the most playing time? You can give the edge to experience when there is a tie in the talent category. However, you cant ignore the talent just because it isnt proven… yet.

    Every year it seemed I heard CRN respond “they just dont have the experience yet” when questioned why Player A wasnt getting much, if any, playing time. There is only one real way to get game experience!

  • Anonymous

    Seriously Jon, this is not news. If Franklin were to leave now, it would not be to the NFL.

  • Stan the Stat Man

    Let’s see, which team would love to jump at a ‘talent’ that had 4 100 yard games out of 14 games (and one of those was only 96 yards net), very lean on catching yards, and no ‘extra’ like punt and or KOR.

    As Call ’07 states — he has to have a huge year to even get a sniff from the NFL — 1,000 yards on the ground, 250 yards from catches, at least 15 TDs.

    If he has another journeyman year, Diesel Ski has three paths to make $$ in football:

    The CFL
    Football Coach
    FB betting pools

  • Anonymous

    Two words….Kahil Bell

  • Anonymous

    Franklin wasnt even the best runner on the team.Nothing against JF, becuase I like him. The way UCLA underused Coleman for 4 years was idiotic and astounding

  • ucla-of-the-rockies

    JF gets it. He has proven he will do the work in the off-season, too.
    Yes, he — and others — must lead this fall for us to step forward.
    He must also work harder on securing the football. Simply put, the NFL frowns on running backs that can’t hang onto the rock.

  • Paper Lion

    I’m surprised Franklin is staying after the nineteen-yards-on-eleven-carries showcase against Arizona. Weird.

  • Anonymous

    If Kevin Prince ever plays again, it better be because no one else is healthy enough to put on a uniform. He is a nice guy, a hard worker, and dedicated to the the team, but he was simply unable to lead a team to victory on a consistent basis. The blind loyalty he was given the last two years was pathetic.